Taiwan ally Tuvalu to name a new prime minister

February 26, 2024 1:51 pm

A view shows debris following high tides, in Funafuti, Tuvalu [Source: Tuvalu Meteorological Service/via Reuters]

Tuvalu on Monday morning will announce a new prime minister, who is expected to be elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, an official said.

Feleti Teo, who was Tuvalu’s first attorney general and has decades of experience in fisheries – the region’s biggest revenue earner – has received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two sources told Reuters on Monday.

“Only one nomination was submitted to the Governor General,” said a Tuvalu election official, Tufoua Panapa. He declined to name the nominee but said the Governor General would make an announcement after a formal vote by the lawmakers on Monday morning.

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Teo was Tuvalu’s first attorney general and has worked as a senior regional fisheries official for the past decade, as executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by three weeks as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the U.S. and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.